(L to R) Distinguished Service Order; Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen'; King's South Africa Medal with clasps 'South Africa 1901', 'South Africa 1902'; 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; 1935 Jubilee Medal; 1937 Coronation Medal
Francis was born on the 11th April 1879 in Aldershot, Hampshire. He was named after his father and his mother was Constance Elizabeth. Holland was her maiden name. Francis had at least 2 brothers: Henry Taprell and James Wilfred Sussex.
Francis senior had been commissioned as an Ensign in the 96th Regiment of Foot in January 1869. As a Captain he transferred to the 107th Foot in April 1879, exchanging places with John Barlow, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection. The 107th Foot became the Royal Sussex Regiment and Francis retired from it in 1895 as a Colonel.
Francis junior was educated at Haileybury College in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, between 1891 and 1893. We don't know where else he was educated, but after he left school he decided to follow in his father's footsteps. He trained at the Royal Military College Sandhurst and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment on the 8th September 1897. He was 5 feet 9 inches tall when he joined the Regiment.
Francis served in the UK with the 1st Battalion until November when he was sent to Aden, now in Yemen, to join the 2nd Battalion, the former 96th Regiment, as it returned from India. Whilst he was in Aden Francis was promoted to Lieutenant. The 2nd Battalion spent a year there then moved to Manchester in November 1898.
The Boer War broke out in October 1899 in South Africa. It began badly for the British and they quickly began to send more troops to the country. The 2nd Battalion was one of the units sent, it arrived in April 1900. Francis went with it, but was immediately detached to serve as the Signalling Officer in the 17th Brigade. The 2nd Battalion was part of this Brigade.
We don't know much about Francis' time in South Africa. He was promoted to Captain on the 5th January 1901. On the 18th March he left the 17th Brigade and became a Staff Adjutant to the South African Constabulary, based in Bloemfontein. Although intended as a police force the continued fighting meant that this was used as a military unit. Francis was to serve with them until beyond the end of the war in May 1902. He finally left South Africa on the 30th June 1904, returning to the 2nd Battalion in Guernsey.
Francis returned to the Royal Military College in September 1906. He had been appointed to be an officer in command of a Company of Gentleman Cadets. He would hold this position, being responsible for the training of hundreds of future officers, until September 1910.
On the 22nd July 1909 Francis married Isabel Anita Lillian Barbenson in Christ's Church on Victoria Street in central London. They had one daughter, Elizabeth Frances, who was born in Camberley, Surrey on the 16th February 1913.
We don't know what Francis did until he rejoined the 2nd Battalion in August 1911. They were based in Ireland at this time, but Francis was only with them for around 6 months. He began the Staff Course at the Staff College in Camberley in January 1912. This would teach him the skills needed to plan, control and supply military units. Francis passed and had returned to the 2nd Battalion by the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.
The 2nd Battalion was part of the 14th Brigade. Francis' new staff training was put to use when he was appointed Staff Captain to the Brigade on the 6th. In this job he would have been responsible for making sure the 4 battalions in the 14th Brigade were kept supplied and equipped, and that their administration was in order. He arrived in France on the 17th August.
Francis served with the 14th Brigade during the retreat from Mons, as the British were forced back by the German advance. The line stabilised during September, and in October Francis fought at Ypres in Belgium. He was invalided out of France in early November for an unknown reason.
It was February 1915 before Francis was well enough to return to his duties. He was assigned to the War Office in London as a General Staff Officer 3rd Grade (GSO3) working for the Director of Home Defence. He was promoted to Major on the 22nd February 1916 and became a GSO2. We don't know whether he changed jobs upon promotion.
On the 28th August 1916 Francis was reassigned from the War Office to the General Staff. At around the same time he returned to France. Francis spent the rest of the war in staff jobs. Unfortunately we have very few details of what they were. We believe he was assigned to the 46th Division during 1917. He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel when he became a GSO1 in October 1917, and continued to serve in France until the end of the war. He returned to the UK in August 1919 and took up a position working for the General Officer Commanding Number 1 (Plymouth) Area.
Although we don't know what he did, Francis' superiors though highly of his service during the First World War. He was Mentioned in Despatches 5 times: On the 8th October 1914, the 30th March 1917, the 9th April 1917, the 7th November 1917 and the 7th April 1918. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order on the 1st January 1918.
Francis returned to the Manchester Regiment in February 1920. He went with the 1st Battalion to Ireland in early April. They found themselves fighting in the Irish War of Independence. The Battalion faced Irish Republican Army fighters who fought as guerrillas in small groups. They mounted ambushes and hit-and-run attacks, never standing and fighting the British.
On the 31st August Francis took command of the 1st Battalion. They were based in small bases in Kilworth and Ballincollig and faced a determined enemy in the IRA. When martial law was imposed Francis became responsible for an area of around 240 square miles in County Cork. The 1st Battalion continued patrols and searches of the countryside, occasionally engaging in combat with IRA fighters, until a ceasefire was signed on the 11th July. This led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty on the 6th December 1921, and the establishment of the Irish Free State the next year.
The 1st Battalion left Ireland for the Channel Islands on the 3rd February 1922. They were soon sent back to Northern Ireland because of the threat of an attack on this British territory by the Free State. After some minor skirmishes in June they left again in December 1922.
Francis handed over command of the 1st Battalion on the 25th August 1924 to Wilfred Evans, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment. He was promoted to Colonel and placed on half pay, meaning that he was still in the Army, but did not have a job. He went to live at 'The Crouch' in Seaford, Sussex with his family. He formally retired on the 12th September 1931.
This did not mark the end of Francis' connection to the Manchester Regiment. He became a member of the Old Comrade's Association and attended many Regimental events. He also began to play a major role in the administration of the Regiment.
Francis was chiefly responsible for the approval of the Manchester Regiment's new fleur-de-lys cap badge, adopted in 1923 after several years of effort. He also played a key role in establishing the Manchester Regiment Central Committee, intended to bring together representatives of the Regular Army, the Territorial Army and Old Comrade's Associations of the Regiment. He also put time and effort into supporting the establishment of a Regimental Museum. The Central Committee was formed in 1932, with Francis as a member. The Museum opened at Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton-under-Lyne in 1936. Not only did Francis contribute several exhibits, he also built 2 of the display cases!
Francis' efforts on behalf of the Regiment made him a widely popular choice to replace Wilfred Evans, who had died, as Colonel of the Regiment. Francis took up the position on the 19th July 1934. This was a ceremonial position; Francis would represent the Regiment at formal occasions and support its interests within the Army. He also acted as a figurehead for all the units that made up the Regiment.
In this capacity he attended the funeral of King George V on the 28th January 1936. He also played a major role in supporting attempts to create a Regimental Chapel in Manchester Cathedral, which opened in 1936. He also visited units of the Regiment whenever he could.
The outbreak of the Second World War made this job harder, but not impossible. In addition to making visits, Francis was kept informed of the activities of units in distant theatres by letter. After the war he began the process that would lead to a new Regimental History, covering the war years, being written.
Francis could not continue as Colonel past his 70th birthday, so on the 11th April 1947 he handed over the position to Colonel Charles Moorhead. The Regiment wished him a long and happy retirement.
Francis' daughter Elizabeth married Marcus Crichton in 1935, and Francis was eventually grandfather to 3 children. His brothers both served in the Royal Navy during the First World War, James became a Rear Admiral and a Companion of the Order of the Bath. Henry reached the rank of Captain and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Henry also achieved fame as an author, under the pen name 'Taffrail'.
By 1951 Francis had become increasingly ill, and he died on the 15th October. The regiment felt that 'the gap he leaves is immeasurable but his memory lives on'. 'Frankie' as he was 'affectionately known' was buried at Brighton Crematorium on the 17th.
Francis' medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in November 1987.